Feb 13 2014
I am undoubtedly overwhelmed, overextended, and stretched too thin on any given day, at any given moment. A 3-year-old son, almost 10-month-old twin daughters, a home to maintain, a small business we are trying to grow, a new photography venture, articles to write, a cooking club, and a few other activities all make my life insanely chaotic and wonderful.
Then why did I commit myself to one more thing? Because, if you notice the list above, there was nothing dedicated to being Jewish. I am committed to raising my children in a Jewish home, but was I doing enough to achieve that just by sending my son to the daycare at the local JCC? So when I was invited to join Chai Mitzvah, a women’s learning group at my synagogue, I jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 7 2014
Love our children though we may, inevitably my husband and I will eventually have commitments on Friday night. Luckily, we have the world’s most fantastic babysitter. Our children run to her when she comes through the door. Last time she left, our toddler clung to her leg and blurted out, “Miss Megan, I ruv you.” Like any good parent, I’ve instructed her to start failing her college courses so that she won’t graduate quite so fast and leave us, tearful, in her successful dust.
She’s not Jewish, and like most of our community, matters of faith don’t tend to come up regularly. However, now that Shabbat on Fridays is part of our family rhythm, I’m not sure how to approach her about it.
Don’t let me fool you. Our Shabbat practice is not picturesque nor extensive. It is a barefoot, pants-less, baby-on-the-countertop kind of thing. As we discover what traditions work for us, more often than not the mood absorbs the anxiety that comes with “don’t let the toddler grab the lighter!” than any sort of Shabbat peace. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 28 2014
Ever tried hosting your own Shabbat dinner and felt a touch… overwhelmed? Bethany from The Glamorous Housewife is here to help with her new series on Kveller.
Hi there! My name is Bethany Herwegh and I am The Glamorous Housewife. I am thrilled to be starting a new series here on Kveller regarding all things Shabbat dinner. I started making Shabbat meals about nine years ago and I now host about 35-40 meals per year. So though I am not a chef, I do know a few things about cooking and hostessing a dinner party, and I would like to share that knowledge with you.
Once a month I will be laying out an easy and tasty dinner meal based on seasonal products that are geared for the unskilled at-home cook. I know how intimidating it can be to have people over for dinner, especially if you are not experienced around the kitchen, but I think I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I would like to teach you so you too can enjoy all that Shabbat dinner has to offer.
I am starting with a simple winter meal with big bold flavors but not much effort. The main dish is maple dijon chicken with fresh rosemary and is supported by roasted brussels sprouts with a garlic dipping sauce, mashed potatoes, a roasted squash salad, and for dessert, a raspberry and chocolate trifle. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 24 2014
I was born a contradiction. On the Sabbath, the day we are commanded to rest, I prompted my mother to labor and deliver me into the world. So it’s fitting that I struggle with the God thing still.
Soon after we gave birth to our first kids, one of my dearest friends confided in me that pregnancy and childbirth made her feel closer to God than ever before.
Huh. Not me.
I tried to figure out why.
From early on in my pregnancy, I needed to see it to believe it. I waited until I saw the results of the home pregnancy test before embracing the possibility. I waited longer still for the first ultrasound to feel like it was actually happening. It wasn’t real until I had proof. Some have faith; I wanted certainty.
Childbirth also called my beliefs into question. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 10 2014
I learned to braid and to bake at the same time. At my mother’s side, we mixed packets of yeast with warm water to let it proof, melted butter and stirred it together with eggs, milk, and honey, and added flour to make it a soft, pliable dough. She got the recipe for this sweetened and enriched challah from a roommate’s great-grandmother, who brought it with her from Europe.
“Push it away with the heel of your hands, then fold it over and pull it towards you,” she instructed, teaching me how to knead the dough. After the dough was springy and resilient, we placed it in a greased bowl to rise in a warm place. In the fall and winter, which is when we most often made honey-egg bread, we placed it on the edge of the kitchen counter, closest to the woodstove in the next room. We swaddled the bowl in a dishtowel.
After an hour, we lifted back the towel to see the dough, puffed out to double its size. My mother told me to punch it down, and we pried it out of the bowl and kneaded some more. She then cut it into equal pieces, three or six, depending on how many loaves we were making, or if we were making one big braid with a baby braid on top. We shaped each piece into a long, skinny snake, rolling on a floured board or between our hands in the air. Our golden retriever lay at our feet, hopeful for a dropped piece of dough. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 20 2013
About a week ago, a friend posted on her Facebook page: “Happy Houseiversary!”
She and her family had been living in their new home for a year (a home that happens to be across the road from my home. Hi, Lori!)
I saw Lori’s post, checked the calendar, and immediately felt shame. Just a week before Lori’s houseiversary, we had a houseiversary, too. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed. I didn’t mention it to my husband, and he didn’t mention it to me. I didn’t post it on Facebook, or give it much thought, at all. In fact, when people ask us how long we’ve been living in our new home, in our new town, we usually mumble, “Uh, a year? About a year? Maybe a little less than a year?” (For the record: one year, three weeks, and five days.)
I’ve blogged on Kveller a bunch about my ambivalence about the suburbs. First I wondered if I was old enough to own a house and then I wondered if the suburbs would make my kids boring. There was a post where I asked, “Will we find people like us?” and one where I tried to instruct readers on how to “close on a house and not freak out.” Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 8 2013
“I want Shabbat,” my son Benjamin proclaimed on a recent Saturday afternoon as the guests we’d invited over for lunch milled about the house. I looked up from the salad I was throwing together, certain I’d misunderstood him. Shabbat is something we do every week in our house, yet something Benjamin, now 10 years old, had never once acknowledged. But then he said it again.
Benjamin has autism, and with his variation of the disorder comes serious language impairments that make it insanely difficult for him to do something that most of us take for granted; to identify the thoughts he wants to express, find the corresponding words, and then actually put those words out into the world. Communicating is an Everest-scaling level challenge for him, and because of that, Benjamin has become quite adept at paring it down to the basics.
And we, in turn, have become quite adept at interpreting the collection of compact lines he has curated over the years in order to get his needs met. More difficult is decoding the subtext, although we have become increasingly skilled at that part, too. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 25 2013
A trauma in three acts:
The Friday could not have started any nicer; my 4-year-old daughter, Raphaela, celebrated her birthday in nursery school–always a touching and emotional event in the Israeli school system–and as a bonus, my parents had arrived the day before from Boston and were able to join in the festivities.
That afternoon, my parents offered to babysit Raphaela, a luxury for me both as a single mother by choice, and as a woman who moved to Israel 16 years ago, with no immediate family living anywhere on the continent. What a sense of freedom knowing that my child is in capable and loving hands, and that I have several hours with no responsibilities other than to myself.
Then, that evening, while waiting at my parents’ vacation apartment for my father to return from synagogue, Raphaela tripped on a quilt and smashed her chin directly into the hard cold tiled floor that typifies most Israeli buildings. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 18 2013
We are Shabbat rookies in every way.
Before we got married, we decided to raise the kids Jewish. I am Jewish, my husband is not. It was important to me, and my husband liked the idea of them growing up with a faith.
Some of the best advice I got on raising kids Jewish was from a religious school administrator who told me, “Just do Jewish.”
Got it. Do Jewish.
Now what? Read the rest of this entry →